Skip to content Skip to navigation

Call for Papers- 2020 GRADUATE STUDENT WORKSHOP: THE EROTIC, May 7th, 2020

In view of current campus restrictions on events this workshop has been postponed until further notice


Mural on a street in Karachi depicting Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch who was killed in 2016. 

Photo credit @FurSid, via Twitter with permissions. (January 3, 2018)

The erotic is powerful, provocative, and performative. In the South Asian context, its genealogies traverse the entangled terrains of precolonial, imperialist, nationalist, postcolonial, and neoliberal thought. Erotic encounters serve as objects of study within the historic, political, cultural, and aesthetic imaginaries of South Asia. We also encounter the erotic as a mode of analysis for myriad enactments of being and becoming in national, transnational, and diasporic discourses. Such assertions and ambiguities of the erotic inform the 2020 CSA Stanford Graduate Workshop.

Within postcolonial and decolonial thought, the erotic has been a crucial category for rescuing gendered and sexual identities from the throes of imperialist and orientalist hegemonies. Do the ideals of a modern nation-state recuperate and redefine precolonial iterations of the sensual? What have been the valences of tethering it with sexuality for gendered and queered discourses, intimacies, and activisms? How do we decenter the erotic from the carnal in postcolonial legacies of South Asia? In what ways does the erotic “queer” realms of the uncanny, impossible, and the unnamable? What other modes of libidinal conditions arise that produce new formulations of desire, consumption, and pleasure? And how do they then invoke discourses of economic liberalization, religious fundamentalism, media sensorium, and legality? What new conceptions of gendered, caste-, and class-based identities emerge from these technologies of the erotic?

Recent political turmoil exposes the salacious underpinnings of our violent public sphere. Geo-political erotics not only arouse a corporeal relationship with the ‘motherland,’ they also engender new forms of statelessness, exile, migration, and refugee crises within and beyond the contours of South Asia. Erotic ecologies rest where the poetics of love, belonging, and freedom meet the politics of fear, suffering, and shame. The workshop will interrogate (but is not limited to) these embodied and affective textures of the erotic that entangle and reconfigure notions of the public and private; fraternal and unfamiliar; surveillance and prohibition; and of authority and emancipation.

Professor Anjali Arondekar (University of California, Santa Cruz), will preside over the workshop and present the keynote lecture.

We invite approaches across disciplines to the erotic from graduate students of all levels. Please submit 250-word abstracts, and direct all your queries to Ankita Deb ( and Rishika Mehrishi ( by February 25th, 2020.

Graduate Student Organizers

Rishika Mehrishi is a doctoral candidate in theater and performance studies at Stanford University. Her dissertation project focuses on human/nonhuman encounters in South Asia and intersects multispecies ethnography, new materialism, gender, and postcolonial studies.

Ankita Deb is a second year PhD student in Film and Media Studies at the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford. Her MPhil dissertation from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India was titled Romancing the 1970s: The Couple in Bombay Cinema, where she located a new romantic modernity for the on-screen couple. Her current work is primarily centered around South Asian Film and Media studies, with a focus on media archaeology, infrastructure, waste, and phenomenology.